I think I've made it clear in this space over the years that there is a clear delineation in my life: B.R. and A.R. (before rodeo, after rodeo). Once upon a time I grew up in Ohio and had less knowledge of rodeo than... than... I don't even know—I can't think of a good example of someone who knew less about rodeo than me growing up. And then fast forward to now: I know a thing or two about rodeo. Some cowboy asked me to watch his horse once on the track. I can turn almost any outfit into western wear with jewelry alone. My first-born Wyoming native has been a toe. I've considered submitting a portfolio and application to become an official PRCA photographer. This is all to say: when we decided to go to the Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo in Montgomery this past weekend, I knew what to expect. It wasn't my first rodeo, after all.
The Dillows dusted off their western wear—well, except for Maddie, whose boots were too small—and headed over to Garrett Coliseum for some (indoor) Saturday afternoon rodeo. The irony of Dillows feeling comfortable in their western wear at the rodeo never escapes me, because it wasn't so very long ago that we felt like impostors with a capital "I." These days, no one would accuse us of being impostors (unless someone handed one of us his horse and said horse decided to do something other than stand there). It was a small rodeo, but fun to watch even from way up high in our nosebleed seats.
Anyway. Somewhere in between bronco riding and barrel racing, the announcer got very excited to introduce one of the in-between events: Team Ghostriders. We've seen performers in the in-between events at the rodeo before—like this one, which we don't talk about in our house, shhh. He was insistent that everyone with a camera needed to have that camera ready, because we wouldn't want to miss it, whatever "it" was.
Then this truck cab came rolling out, giving away nothing about what was about to appear.
[Here is where I will add that I don't wear my glasses when I'm using my camera, generally. My eyesight isn't terrible, but wearing my glasses does make things like rodeo arenas appear a little crisper when up in a nosebleed seat. But I can manage fine without them, and manage better when I'm taking pictures, so they were in my bag.]
And then! Suddenly, everyone present started cheering as something else ran out of the truck at lightning speed. Dogs! Dogs to herd the sheep. Ellie would be so jealous, I thought. Except I couldn't exactly figure out what was going on, because something was on the dogs. Gracie was to my left, and she was squinting (with her glasses on) and said "Mama! I think it's kids! Is it kids?" And I was so confused. Because yes, kids would be more logical THAN MONKEYS, which was the image my brain was sending to my no-glasses eyes. The frenetic rodeo announcer was more and more excited about what was unfolding yet not exactly helping decode what the heck was going on. It was looking more and more like monkeys. Monkeys in chaps. If not for my trusty old zoom lens, I might not even have believed it.
And then, I cracked.
I could not get a hold of myself. I started giggling, then full-on cackling. Because, monkeys! Monkeys on dogs! Monkeys on dogs herding sheep! It was so absurd. And they were good, too! Running around the arena like little old men cowboys, just workin' the sheep, all in a day's work. My cackling turned into that ugly laughing that only happens once ever seven years or so, and by this time Matt was giggling too—mostly because I was causing such a scene. Tears running down my face. A complete loss of awareness of the people sitting around me (to include my children) who were side-eyeing me with increasing concern.
Every time I caught Matt's eye I lost it again.
Just look at that one in the red shirt: "Hey, you wanna go outside and get a smoke?" Honestly, it's a wonder any of these pictures turned out at all, because I had a bad case of the crazy cackling camera shakes.
After the sheep were herded into their pen, their trainer gave a touching speech about his love for America, Capuchin monkeys, and Border Collies all set to a soundtrack of highly patriotic instrumental music. He is clearly a talented performer and devoted animal lover, but that did not stop me from losing it all over again. At least now I'll be prepared when I see Team Ghostriders pull up somewhere, and can say with absolute authority: well this isn't my first monkey rodeo.
We let Gracie and Bridget go down for the "calf scramble," another in-between event where we didn't really know what was going to happen... but you know, rodeo kids and all—they'd be fine. 200+ kids proceeded to run around like crazy pants chasing three calves with ribbons on their tails, with the object to untie the ribbon and take it to the center of the arena. It takes a lot to push this story to second place, but there you have it. They were both ticked that the girl who won first place was wearing FLIP-FLOPS.